Jerusalem: A tunnel discovered in an elderly woman`s yard in a Palestinian neighbourhood of East Jerusalem on Monday may have been part of a criminal gang`s plan for a heist at a nearby museum or bank, police said.
The 30 metre-deep hole had been dug in recent months by men posing as municipal workers sent to repair a water leak, Israeli police spokeswoman Luba Samri said.
The woman`s yard abuts the Rockefeller Archaeological Museum, home to antiquities including a 9,000-year-old statue from Jericho and Bronze Age gold jewellery, as well as a bank that was scheduled to open soon.
"This is the work of a criminal gang that wanted to gain access somewhere - whether to the museum or the bank, is still being checked," she said.
Israeli police, who were tipped off about the tunnel by a neighbour, had yet to carry out arrests and did not consider the woman a suspect, Samri said, noting that the tunnelers had spoken Arabic and may be Palestinian.
Secret tunnels are a phenomenon that jars many Israelis given their use by Hamas fighters for lethal cross-border raids during last year`s Gaza war. But Samri said there was "nothing nationalistic" behind this particular tunnel.
The Israel Museum and Israel Antiquities Authority, which share responsibility for the Rockefeller Archaeological Museum, had no immediate comment, nor did the Bank Hapoalim chain, which is due to open a branch at the site.